GREYSTOKE- THE LEGEND OF TARZAN- LORD OF THE APES. 1984. BASED ON TARZAN OF THE APES BY EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS. DIRECTED BY HUGH HUDSON. STARRING CHRISTOPHER LAMBERT, RALPH RICHARDSON, IAN HOLM, JAMES FOX, ANDIE MACDOWELL, RICHARD GRIFFITHS AND DAVID SUCHET. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
When I was growing up, I loved the old TARZAN movies starring Johnny Weissmuller, the hunky actor and Olympic swimming champion. I still do, though I haven’t seen them now for years. I spent many happy hours fantasising about being dragged off into the jungle (by my hair, of course) by the broad-shouldered, bare-chested, handsome, semi-naked ape-man who could wrestle with lions and tigers and always come out on top.
We’d live together happily in his treehouse, having copious amounts of jungle sex in between swinging from the treetops and hobnobbing with the primates who raised him. It was a dearly-held sexual fantasy of mine for a long time. It sustained me throughout my formative years when teachers and parents would come at me from both sides with demands for ever higher and higher grades. I still wouldn’t say no, to tell you the truth. I’ve always been a sucker for a guy in a loincloth.
What I’m trying to say with this preamble is that I’m not opposed to any film that has a semi-naked, manly ape-man in it. No offence to my fellow Dubliners but there’s a distinct shortage of them where I live. In GREYSTOKE, the film currently under discussion- in case you’d forgotten because of my ramblings- we have a naked ape-man who is brought up by jungle apes after his parents are shipwrecked off the African coast in 1885 and later die.
Our ape-man is fearless and strong and has an uncanny ability to mimic any noise he hears, animal or otherwise. He is fully accepted by his adoptive ape parents and family and he protects them in return. His first contact with humans since the death of his parents comes when he encounters Philippe D’Arnot, a Belgian explorer played by Ian Holm, aka Bilbo Baggins to all the LORD OF THE RINGS fans out there. Bilbo, having correctly worked out our ape-man’s true identity, informs him that he is in fact John Clayton, the heir to the 6th Earl of Greystoke with a huge country estate in the Scottish Lowlands.
Bilbo brings John back to his ancestral home, where he is rapturously welcomed by both his Grandpops, the 6th Earl of Greystoke, and his Grandpops’s American ward, Jane, played by Andie MacDowell, whom I’ve always found intensely irritating, this time being no exception. John/Tarzan and Jane (geddit…?) fall in love, but in trying to adapt to his new life as a rich posh gentleman John encounters huge difficulties.
Where does he fit in? Is he a human being like Jane and his grandfather or does he belong to the world of primates, reminders of which come back to haunt him when he visits the Natural History Museum…? Sooner or later, he has to make a choice between the two worlds/lives and he and the people around him will have to live with the consequences, regardless of what those might be.
This is a film of two halves, the jungle half and then the castle part. I prefer the jungle part. Christopher HIGHLANDER Lambert does a brilliant job of portraying the naked ape-man (though no-one will ever replace Johnny Weissmuller as the Tarzan of my heart and dreams), and the footage of the lush green vegetation of the African jungle and the animals who live in it is simply stunning. John’s ancestral home is magnificent too, though, both inside and out. I adore any film with Victorian explorers and the British Natural History Museum in it, so I enjoyed that element of the film very much.
Dear old Ralph Richardson (1903-1983) stars here in his final film appearance, and GREYSTOKE received no less than three Academy Award nominations. You totally have to suspend disbelief when Tarzan turns overnight from a grunting naked ape-man to a sleekly-groomed male model in a dinner jacket who speaks perfect English with a French accent- he learned from the Belgian Bilbo- but hey, it’s a film. And a pretty good one at that. If you have a rather butt-numbing one-hundred-and-thirty-one minutes to spare in which to watch it, you could actually do a lot worse.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:
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2) A WRITER’S JOURNEY
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4) ANOTHER FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
5) CANCER BALLS
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